In one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Livingston Lancers lost to their rivals Millburn, 6-5, on Friday night in a closely contested game.
The Livingston vs. Millburn rivalry in sports is always very special throughout the school year. These games bring the most fans into the seats, by far. Tonight, that didn't change as Livingston saw many of the 2,500 seats in the Codey Arena at South Mountain filled up behind their bench. From start to finish, fans were clearly a factor in the game, but not in a good way for Livingston.
The Millburn Millers came out with an early 2-0 lead, both power play goals. Fatigue seemed to start to kicking in for the Lancers and they weren't able to play their best defense to kill the power play.
However, junior forward, Tal Finberg, who was nowhere near 100 percent due to an injury, was able to tip the puck in for a goal about a minute later in the first period.
Seconds into the second period, Livingston had a power play, but Millburn was able to sneak a goal in shorthanded to get in front by two. Then another penalty was called on the Lancers, and Millburn went right back to work for another goal to break the game open by three, 4-1.
But assistant captain and defender, Jonny Garfinkel would have none of that. Garfinkel came back with a goal of his own from the blue line, rocketing it past the goalie to cut the lead to 4-2.
As play continued at a fast pace, Millburn was finally called for a penalty, giving the Lancers a chance to cut the two goal lead in half; and Mike Koval did just that, to make the score 4-3 at the second intermission.
At that moment, you knew that the Lancers had all the momentum and would be able to get back into the game. Last year, the Lancers were always making plays in the last period, coming back from some major deficits. Tonight was no different.
With 26 seconds gone by in the third period, Jonny Garfinkel ripped another one from the blue line that went past the goalie to tie the game at four a piece. The Lancers had all the momentum and were turning this game around quickly, from an inefficient start.
With a couple of penalties from both teams, the Lancers and Millers played four-on-four hockey for a little bit. Turns out, it benefited the Lancers as Cameron Friedfertig found Jonny Garfinkel by the blue line giving Jonny a breakaway goal that gave the Lancers a 5-4 lead with 3:36 remaining in the game. That was Garfinkel's third goal of the game, giving him a hat-trick for the night.
At that moment, the Lancers' student fans realized that Garfinkel had achieved a hat-trick, and we're so excited the Lancers took the lead, that fans began to throw their shoes on the ice (instead of hats). Many would say that that's the spirit of the game, a feature that should never be overlooked in a hockey game. It's traditional for fans to throw stuff on the ice if a hat-trick is accomplished.
However, the referees didn't see it the same way. The Lancers were called for unsportsmanlike conduct (two minute penalty) for their fans' actions. Already four-on-four, the Lancers were now down to three, giving the Millers a power play to try to get back into the game. Millburn's player came out of the box with 30 seconds left, giving the Millburn a five-on-three power-play, and they capitalized. Millburn tied it up with 2:34 remaining in the game.
While Mike Koval came out of the penalty box, the Lancers were still stuck with Cole Friedfertig in the box because of the shoes being thrown on the ice. Millburn was pretty much handed a 5-4 power play, and again, took their chance and scored the game winning goal with 1:57 left in the game. Millburn would hold on to win the game.
Everyone was in shock on the bench, as the Lancers believed they should have easily beat Millburn. And looking at the stats, you can't blame them. The Lancers shot 63 shots on goal to Millburn's 15, but somehow, the Lancers lost.
One key to the loss is obviously penalties. They are constantly in the box, being shorthanded for a long period of time. As said before, fatigue seemed to kick in during this fast paced, exciting rivalry against Millburn.
But also, the Lancers hit the post on so many different occasions. It was tough luck. On all those shots, they got the puck behind the goalie, but couldn't finish. There were also some rebound chances that were missed during the game.
Losing to Millburn in front of so many fans is always hard to swallow, especially giving the lead away with 3:36 remaining in the game. Every single player on the Lancers were speechless and disappointed with the loss. No words were able to come out of their mouths as they were in disbelief. And could you blame them? Their fans ultimately cost them the game, however, that penalty should have never been called.
Hat-tricks aren't easy to come by, and when you finally get to see one live, you're supposed to throw a hat, (or a shoe), to congratulate the player who scored those three goals. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for that is ridiculous, but we can't go back now.
That penalty wasn't the reason the Lancers lost, it's just one of the many things that went wrong tonight.
The Lancers are now 1-1 on the year, and will try to turn their fortune around tomorrow night against Nutley at 7:45 at the Codey Arena in South Mountain. If you come, just make sure that your shoes and hats (or anything else you wear to a hockey game) stays on you at all times.
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